Some held signs, and others held hands. Some were gray, some were young. Some were gay and some were not. But several hundred men, women and children strode through downtown in Saturday’s parade as part of the 18th annual Fort Wayne Pride Festival.
Even with assistance from the Fort Wayne Police Department, downtown traffic came to a 10-minute standstill as the kickoff parade – the largest number of participants in its brief three-year history – marched for nearly an hour from, then back to, Headwaters Park.
“It’s a show of solidarity,” said David Shaw, 60, who marched with several family members.
It’s a solidarity that has strengthened in its resolve in the wake of last month’s ruling allowing gay marriages in Indiana.
The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals granted state Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s request to put that ruling on hold, and Gov. Mike Pence later instructed state agencies not to recognize the gay marriages that occurred during the three-day period after the federal ruling allowed same-sex unions.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Shaylene Shaw, who married Cindy Shaw last month in Chicago. Cindy is David Shaw’s sister. “Everybody has an opinion, and everybody is entitled to that opinion.
“But unless you’re the sector, your opinion doesn’t carry quite as much weight. People don’t understand. People who are allowed to be married – their partner, their wife, their husband is in the hospital and sick, it’s never a concern that they’re going to be booted out of the room.
“They have that right as an American that they can be with their spouse, and nobody can do anything about it,” she said.
“There are no rights for us if something happens to the other person. If something happens to her and they boot me out, I’d go to jail; I’d be fighting people. That’s just inhumane. You can’t tell somebody who to love, and then to make it so they can’t be there in their time of need is ridiculous.”
Participating in the parade was a man who held aloft a sign that read, “This is 2014. Why am I still protesting this?”
Waiting for the parade to begin were Josh Terry and Jason Cohee, both of whom came from Findlay, Ohio, to participate in the march and festival.
“I guess I would ask them (government officials) to use a little bit of empathy – to treat them like you’d treat your own marriage,” Terry said.
“It’s not a convenience; it’s not a la carte where you just say, ‘Hey, I want this today, and the next day, I don’t want this.’ They get a lot of privileges that, unfortunately, the LGBT community does not get,” she added.
“They get to see their partner in the hospital if, God forbid, something happens. I don’t think there could be anything more heartbreaking than your partner being on their deathbed and you not being able to spend the last moments with them. They get closure. They get that privilege.”
Cohee added, “In Ohio, the mentality is very close-minded. If you’re not straight and you’re not married to the opposite sex and you don’t have 2.5 kids with the white picket fence and that stuff, you’re mainly treated as an alien with no respect, no benefits, no nothing.”
David Shaw wants his rights, no matter what his sexual orientation.
“We go to court to make it right,” he said. “The fight isn’t over. It’s not over until everybody has equal rights, and that includes transgender, gay, black, white. Just get involved. Write your legislature. Call your governor. Be vocal.
“If it matters, say something.”